40 Things I Learned in 40 Years: A Reflection on Hard-Earned Wisdom

February was my birthday month. And it was a big one too. The BIG 4-0. In recent years, I’ve been on a mission to give gifts for my birthday, as it not only falls on one of the mushiest, yuckiest, romantic months of the year but also on Valentine’s Day. I can’t help but want to spread the love. And so my gift this year is this: 40 things I learned in 40 years (yikes!).

YOU ARE MOST WELCOME!

You see, turning 40 is a significant period that marks the beginning of a new chapter book in my life. To simply refer to it as a milestone would be an understatement. As I approached my 40th, I started to reflect on all the good and bad that has led me here. I pondered how great the next 40 years of my life could be if I applied everything I am about to share with you. It was a loooooong reflection as a lot of extras have happened within the last couple of years –which is why this article is so overdue.

From embracing Stoic philosophy in the later part of my life and reflecting on all of my experiences, I feel strongly that in one’s lifetime, no pain should be wasted. That has been my drive in sharing this post with you.

A journey filled with both success and failure, joy and sorrow, I’ve come to appreciate how these experiences have profoundly shaped me and I hope that they resonate with you as well. Or to at least inspire you to make the most out of the life you are living enjoying all the ups and downs that come your way –making it all count!

Although not specifically crafted in a certain order I went ahead and created a TL;DR (“too long; didn’t read”) area for you to browse 4 decades of lessons. Read the whole post or simply just click on the one that piques your curiosity or for elaboration.

Ready? Here we go!


*External links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement of any of the products, services, or opinions of the corporation or organization, or individual.

TL;DR ("too long;didnt read")
1. LOVE THE HATERS 
2. HEALING REQUIRES BREAKING
3. BEING DIFFERENT IS THE BEST FEATURE YOU HAVE
4. CRYING IS GANGSTER
5. ASKING FOR HELP IS ALSO GANGSTER
6. YOUR PARENTS ARE HUMANS IN MEATSUITS
7. THE PAST HOLDS PAIN AND THE FUTURE ANXIETY
8. LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
9. PEOPLE ARE GOING TO JUDGE YOU
10.DONT TAKE SHIT FROM ANYONE
11. DONT TALK SHIT
12. IT IS NOT YOU
13. CHOOSE THE NICE GUY (OR GIRL)
14. WOMEN ARE THE BEST ALLIES IN LIFE
15. HAVE NO SHAME IN YO LIFES GAME
16. DO NOT WISH TO SKIP CERTAIN CHAPTERS OF YOUR LIFE
17. THE ONLY RIGHT TIME IS NOW 
18. JUST SAY NO
19. CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN YOU GET THERE
20. EVERY ENDING IS A NEW BEGINNING 
21. LOVE IS NOT MEANT TO BE POSSESSED
22. THE REALMS OF MY CONTROL
23. FREEDOM IS A STATE OF MIND
24. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
25. FAMILY IS WHOEVER YOU WANT THEM TO BE
26. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS
27. SOULMATES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE FOREVER
28. THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO A COIN
29. SOME PEOPLE WILL SLEEP THEIR WHOLE LIVES
30. STOP RUSHING

31. BALANCE IS REAL
32. COMPARE YOURSELF ONLY TO YOUR PAST SELF 
33. UNLEARN ALL YOU WERE TAUGHT 
34. OUR EMOTIONS ARE OUR TEACHERS
35. YOU CAN DISLIKE PEOPLE AND LOVE THEM TOO
36. DONT LIE AND DONT TELL THE TRUTH
37. YOU CANNOT SAVE PEOPLE
38. FORGIVENESS IS NOT FOR THEM, ITS FOR YOU
39. ATTACHMENT IS THE SOURCE OF ALL SUFFERING 
40. THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS
Knocking on 40s door | 40 Things I learned in 40 years

40 THINGS I LEARNED IN 40 YEARS

1. BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR ENEMIES (LOVE THE HATERS)

Because first and foremost without worthy opponents, how else would you grow stronger? In the story of your life, there must be villains in order for there to be heroes. Great strengths are revealed within you when you find passion in a cause. Great powers that you never knew you possessed.

2. HEALING REQUIRES BREAKING

When a bone breaks in your body and tries to heal on its own it can heal incorrectly or cause misalignments. Sometimes it is required for a doctor to “re-break” bones for proper healing.

This is also true for your life. Healing is not just a physical process; it is also an emotional and mental one. To heal, we must be willing to break the old patterns and routines that no longer serve us. This breaking allows us to rewire our brains and realign our lives with what we truly want.

It requires courage and strength to make these changes, but the rewards are worth it. Breaking down can lead to building up something better than before, leading us on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

3. BEING DIFFERENT IS THE BEST FEATURE YOU HAVE

Do you get compliments on the things that you do not believe about yourself?

“You are so funny”

“You are so pretty”

“Wow, you have a great smile”

To which you reply:

“No, I’m not, but thank you”

“(nervous laugh) Really? Thank you)”

“I don’t believe that but thank you”

The things that once made you an outsider in school are now the very qualities that draw people to you. Don’t be afraid to bring into the open and embrace what makes you unique – these features are what make you special!

Whether it’s curly hair, freckles, a gap in your teeth, or any other distinguishing hallmark, don’t let insecurities keep you from recognizing the beauty of these traits. Let them become the fire that lights up your inner sparkle!


CLAUSE: When you are finally able to acknowledge that thing, it doesn’t make it easier to finally accept it or give you the confidence to flaunt it. Depending on the traumatic experiences you had when being taunted it may take some time to get comfortable with it. But being aware that what makes you different is your best feature—is the first step in working your way toward being proud of it. You got this!

4. CRYING IS GANGSTER

It is not for the weak. Stuffing it all down until it spills out leading you to punch someone in the throat is not badass. THAT is weak.

Feeling your feels, talking, and finding a private moment to release the waterworks—that is straight-up gangster.

5. ASKING FOR HELP IS ALSO GANGSTER

You’ve been the rock your whole life. People ask you for help. They look to you for strength.

So I get that fear…asking for help makes us feel vulnerable. Which we interpret as weak. But the reality is that asking for help is a sign of strength and courage.

6.  YOUR PARENTS ARE REGULAR HUMANS IN MEAT SUITS

Just like you and me. So after you give them hell, make sure you take some time to give them a break.  

Raising another human being is scary shit. In hopes that you don’t screw someone up.

Most of us are wounded children still trying to figure life out. And If we have children before we reach that state, without having the appropriate tools, then all we can do is our best to ensure that at least we can get *this little person to adulthood.

Be angry with them – that’s fine. But remember, it’s your responsibility to do the work, to heal yourself, and to move through what it is that they may have done to you.


*When my son turned 18 and started making plans for his next steps after school, I was picturing how scared I was the very first day I held him in my arms at the age of 19. The thought that came with that reflection: He made it. He survived. I did it!

7. THE PAST HOLDS PAIN AND THE FUTURE GIVES YOU ANXIETY

Dwelling in the past can often be a source of pain and regret, while the future can bring on feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. If ever you recognize getting caught in either space it’s important to remember that the only time we really have is right now – this very moment. We must learn to be present in order to make the most out of our lives.

BUUUUT, I will say this… If you must look in the past, do it only to extract lessons and do so WITHOUT attachment to the experience (see lesson #39). Or look back for a warming memory or something that makes you smile.

Equally, if you must look into the future, do so for a goal or a plan without attachment to the outcome.

8. LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

Children are the best example of this concept. They are constantly learning something new, pushing their boundaries, and trying out new things. Even if they are scared. Even if they fall down. They are determined. This is how they grow and develop as individuals.

As adults, we often become complacent with our lives and forget that life only truly begins when we step out of our comfort zone.

9. PEOPLE ARE GOING TO JUDGE YOU

And unfortunately, first impressions do matter – so just do your freaking best. Throughout your lifetime you will continuously run into the people who are meant to be in your life. People you are supposed to meet.

If your first impression wasn’t great because it just wasn’t your day, don’t worry. You’ll get another chance with them.

And for the people you never see again, so what if you talked about something you totally made up blindly to keep in conversation? So what if they look at you as if you had said the dumbest thing ever in the history of dumbest things ever said?

You will never see them again so let them walk around thinking what they think about you.

10. DON’T TAKE SHIT FROM ANYONE

Don’t take it! Drop that crap bag!

Set boundaries and don’t allow anyone to push you around – no matter who they are! It’s okay to demand respect, both from strangers and those closest to us –ESPECIALLY friends and family. Speak up for yourself and don’t let anyone take away your self-worth.

Remember: Respect is given when earned…not granted by position or rank in this life.

11. DON’T TALK SHIT….

Out loud. God is everywhere, the Universe is listening, and your crystals will shame you.

Karma is a BIOTCH!

12. IT IS NOT YOU…

It’s them!

Now, maybe it is you depending on the specifics of why you broke up but I’m telling ya 98.7% of the time when you are dumped or rejected it is about them.

They are not the person for you. Rejections are really just redirections.  

13. CHOOSE THE NICE GUY (OR GIRL)

My mom didn’t always offer me the best advice but this is one that changed my life and I will never forget.

When I said the most common phrase that many women say when deciding if this person could be a potential suitor

 – “But, he’s too nice” …

my mother responded with

– “You either get someone who acts like a dick or you get a nice guy –  and you already know what the former is like”.

I can confirm that nice guys are just as sexy… maybe even more. You should definitely give it a try.

14. WOMEN ARE THE BEST ALLIES YOU WILL EVER HAVE IN LIFE.

Now I’m not going to lie, women can be like cats: some can be assholes. But, when you find the right one, the right group of women—incredible things happen.

For so long women were taught not to trust each other by design as a form of control and manipulation for cultural, social, political, and economic arrangements. These old programming methods don’t serve us…they never have.

There is chemical energy in logs that allow them to catch on and ignite quickly when touched by other burning logs in a fire; making the fire bigger, and stronger. Women do the same.

15. HAVE NO SHAME…

In your life’s game! You are not your past and your history is NOT your nature.

We all have a time when we think back to a cringe-worthy memory of ourselves. It’s that memory that makes you feel embarrassed all over again in your soul. You even get mad at yourself when you think about it for thinking about it.

The next time such cringe creeps up, instead of trying to get it out of your head, gently ask yourself a few questions:

What was your environment, who were your role models? What mental and emotional tools did you have at that time to make the best decisions? Stand way out and see that many things should be taken into consideration.

Do not feel shame for the person you use to be at all your different ages/stages. Do not hate that person who grew up in an environment with emotionally immature people around her…she only had the tools that everyone else had.

Cut yourself self some slack

16. DO NOT WISH TO SKIP CHAPTERS IN YOUR LIFE

And do not wish the circumstances to be any different either. Amor fati: Not only accept what’s happened but love it.

You have to experience the bad, and the ugly in order to learn what good really is and to fight for what you want and what you know you deserve.

Life is meant to be lived. So live it. Through it all.

17. THE ONLY TIME THAT IS THE “RIGHT TIME” IS NOW.

 There will never be a right time for this or for that… The time is now bruh!

18. JUST SAY NO…

To things that don’t serve you and only aide in self-destruction.

To the people, you feel obligated to.

Events and things that you just don’t want to do or even see the point of.

It’s okay to say no.

Your time and energy are precious. Use it wisely.

19. CROSS THAT BRIDGE OVER THERE WHEN YOU ACTUALLY GET THERE

Don’t presume the problems ahead. Take things one step at a time. It’s okay to plan for things but don’t get lost in an emotional spiral especially if you create a whole bunch of what-if scenarios.

Future telling, projecting, worrying, it doesn’t change anything. It is wasted time pumping your veins full of cortisol and other stress hormones that can lead to various health risks. Deal with it when you get there.

Until then stick to your tasks at hand, and your day-to-day need to make now types of decisions.

20. EVERY ENDING IS A NEW BEGINNING

And it is not always positive. It might come in the form of a challenge but in reality, it’s an opportunity. You will find magic in this world when you reach an end and surrender to it.

Life is trying to teach you something.

21. LOVE IS NOT MEANT TO BE POSSESSED

This idea I took from the book “A Gentle Reminder” by Bianca Sparacino.

She says that love is meant to be given and in turn to be received. It is meant to be felt. Not made a slave by you. Appreciate it for what it was, and then let it go. Let it go out and change others the way that it has changed you.

This hit me hard and it helped me through my transition from a mother of a child to a mother of a man. It helped me recognize that he was never mine…

As time has gone on this message has also helped me heal through a lot of past relationships and heartbreak as well.

22. THE REALMS OF MY CONTROL

Do you want to thrive? Or merely survive? Do you just want to exist…or to experience?

Getting real with yourself and what it is that you actually control will make things a hell of a lot easier because life is hard and we make it even harder than it really needs to be.

You can control:

the food you put into your mouth

your response/reaction to that asshole

how much exercise you do in a week

your feelings toward yourself

how you use your time…

Choose the things that you know you can change or influence a little at least.

Make the best of what is in your power and let the rest go.

23. FREEDOM IS A STATE OF MIND…

You may appear free externally, but internally, you are a slave.

I once had that backwards until I did the work. Why did I feel stuck? Why did I feel locked down? I knew I wanted to escape but I didn’t know what I was trying to escape from.

I was internally a slave to my self esteem, my cravings, to the circumstances that I attached an identity to (being rich, being poor, being a mother, stuck as a wife, CEO).

Within my mental space I chained myself to all of those things with hard expectations and the day I finally recognized that about myself—I broke free. And it felt good!

24. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS

When on the topic of expectations, a wise man at a Stoic conference I attended hollered out to our group “EXPECT INCOMPETENCE”!

He then laughed as if he wanted to say he was joking because it just does not sound right when you’re talking to a group about strengthening community and helping others…but he sat there for a second and was like yea, Im sorry people. This is true.

But it’s not meant in a condescending way or meant that people are beneath you. It’s meant as an approach to protect yourself.

We all have expectations of how things should go or how people should behave, but sometimes it can be detrimental to our mental health and well-being to have such high expectations for people and things.

It is important to remember that life is unpredictable and that we need to be objective in our expectations. *Releasing any attachment to a certain outcome or behavior can help us cope with any disappointment we may feel when things don’t go as planned or when people act in a way that breaks your heart.

It only took me ya know, 40 years to learn this one…. No big deal!


*This lesson is EXTREMELY helpful especially if you have children.

Right after my husband and I walk over the threshold from average parents to Disney Parents at the theme parks we:

– take one look at each other,

– repeat this affirmation “NO EXPECTATIONS”

– high five (in slow motion, are you picturing this????)

– put on our sunglasses and walk hard like the bad ass mother and father duo that we are!

We take the day as it comes.

It doesn’t matter if Disney costs a whole year of your salary, or if you are only in town for one day so you’re going to make them like it.  Your children will make you suffer. And if that doesn’t serve as a reminder to lower your expectations, their magical meltdown facial expressions captured in each of the photo ops that you will want to purchase will!

25. FAMILY CAN BE WHOEVER THE EFF YOU WANT THEM TO BE

As much as I want to say that the term “Blood is thicker than water” is bullshit, I can’t.

If you google the term, you will find conflicting information that says the term actually means blood outside of your family lines is thicker than water from the womb ( familial bonds).

I haven’t spent enough time researching to verify that but if that is in fact the true root meaning then I’ll use that term more.

Family means whatever you want it to mean. They are the people and bonds that you’ve made by choice.

26. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS

Bad things can happen to us. And it isn’t always necessarily a parent that caused the damage. Maybe it was another family member, a friend of the family, a babysitter, or a neighbor …..

What happened to you sucks and it’s such bullshit that bad things happen to good and innocent people. But you have got to do the work. You have to seek help on your own. You have to search for the tools that help you past the circumstance.

It’s easy to blame others… but that is not a solution and it makes life a lot harder, especially when you’re angry and blaming everyone else for your being held back.

How far you progress in this life is up to you!

27. SOUL MATES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER

Some are meant to swoop in and then swoop out.

They are meant to teach you something, show you something, to fulfill a soul agreement that was made between the two of you before taking your place on this earth.

In addition to that, soulmates don’t always show up as romantic partners either. They can be friends, family, or even strangers. They may not be with you forever, but they do show up and change you in ways that last forever.

28. THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO A COIN

Perspective is everything. Our perceptions are not the truth.

See the world, circumstances, and the people in it as it is and as they are, rather than a manifestation of the state of your mind. Read that again and let it sink in.

29. SOME PEOPLE WILL STAY ASLEEP THEIR ENTIRE LIVES

Some people are not capable of being awake. Hearing you… taking responsibility for their behavior, actions, and comments.

They may act as if they hear you but they are right back at it the next day. You want so badly for them to change, to see life doesn’t have to be as chaotic as they make it. All you want is the best for them…and if you changed why can’t they?

You cannot expect people to meet you where you are mentally. It’s not fair to them or you. They are who they are.


*CLAUSE: I’m not saying it’s okay especially if the relationship is toxic. I’m simply saying to arm yourself with this awareness allowing you to reach radical acceptance. Then you can choose the proper boundaries for smoother interactions.

30. STOP RUSHING

Do not rush to be 18, to have that career, to reach an early retirement…because you lose sight of all the things around you and in front of you during those seasons in your life.

It feels as though a premium has been placed on meeting a plethora of life’s goals in today’s society. To meet them now and meet them quick. I have to make this position, I have to save this much for retirement, I have to work my entire life away so I can enjoy my life later……

I have suffered some of my own consequences from rushing, and I am watching others make the same mistakes. Between the two it’s enough for me to finally be content with the pace of my life as it goes.

31. BALANCE IS REAL!

We have been conditioned to believe that balance in life is something that we can achieve in a moment. After trying to change things around to prove that it could be done I gave up and came to the conclusion that balance was NOT real.

As I started to pay attention to what’s around me right now and do all things with intention it hit me that having balance in life is a journey, not a destination.

It’s about finding ways to keep our lives in equilibrium and not letting one aspect of our lives overshadow the others. Balance is spread throughout a lifetime, not over your work week.

32. COMPARE YOURSELF, BUT ONLY TO YOUR PAST SELF

You reach your markers in life when you reach them. Constantly trying to keep up with the Jones’, hoping to achieve what they have achieved at the same age or the same stage in life is exhausting and a hamster wheel that leads you nowhere.

See where you were 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago… you will find growth and your own achievements in there. You will see how far you have come or maybe even recognize you haven’t moved at all.

Measure your own metrics for powerful growth.

33. UNLEARN ALL YOU WERE TAUGHT

Thanks, Yoda! I am not a Star Wars fan so I honestly did not know that this was something that Yoda even said…but sounds like we are both on the same journey.

Our experiences throughout our whole lives play a role when it comes to making decisions (relationships, career, trying new things, risking eating certain foods). We start to rely on outcomes from the past instead of our instincts. We think we know how things are going to turn out; when in reality, we are only limiting ourselves.

By unlearning what we have learned in our lives, we can free ourselves from the boundaries of the past and create space for new ideas and possibilities. We can also become more flexible and resilient in the face of change.

Things don’t HAVE to be a certain way because that’s how we were conditioned to think, because that’s how we have always done it….no.

Life is not black and white. It is so much more than we know.

34. OUR EMOTIONS ARE OUR TEACHERS

Everything we feel is a signal. An opportunity to understand and process what it is that we are feeling and why.

It’s important to recognize that our emotions are not always right or wrong, but they can provide us with valuable information about ourselves and our relationships with others. By paying attention to our emotions, we can gain insight into what is important to us, what motivates us, and how we handle difficult situations.

35. YOU CAN DISLIKE PEOPLE AND LOVE THEM AT THE SAME TIME

We all have relationships in our lives that are complex, and sometimes it can be hard to understand why we feel both love and dislike for the same person.

But it is a real feeling. And it’s totally normal. It is possible to have a strong emotional bond with someone, while also not liking certain aspects of their personality.

36. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIE, BUT DON’T TELL THE TRUTH EITHER

White lies, half- truths whatever you call it…In today’s world, relationships are built on the foundation of communication. However, there are those people in our lives who after tons of situations of misunderstandings, you just know how they interpret information. You know the words that they get caught up on right before they stop listening to you.

In these cases, it is important to remember that you don’t always have to tell the truth, but don’t lie either. There are ways of communicating complex information. Understanding how people process information is very helpful in these situations. There is an art to efficient communication and this is just one of the approaches.

37. YOU CANNOT SAVE PEOPLE

I will say it again…YOU, READING THIS…YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT SAVE PEOPLE who do not/cannot save themselves.

We all want to help others and it is human nature to respond to a person in distress. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. This is a hard lesson that many of us have had to learn the hard way.

Identify who those people are and pay attention to their patterns. You may have something more to offer than Jane over there offered; but if little Melissa has a pattern of doing the same things over and over – It doesn’t matter if you’re more compassionate, smarter, and funnier than Jane. You and Jane cannot help little Melissa. 


*CLAUSE: I am not saying don’t even bother trying, because there are so many conditions that can be at play so definitely if you think that you can make a difference try. What I am saying is to know when to stop. To know when you are just banging your head against the wall and to trust that voice inside you that is telling you that this is not going to work.

38. FORGIVENESS IS NOT ABOUT THEM; IT’S ABOUT YOU

I know. Barfaroni right!?!?!? I used to cringe at the thought of forgiving that person.

But you see, to forgive is not what you think it is.

It is not surrendering to what has been done to you. It is not accepting and then forgetting. It’s not letting them off the hook saying it’s cool you can treat me like this over and over again. Nor is it reconciliation.

It’s for you.

The cognitive dissonance caused by hate is more detrimental to your well-being than you know. Release that energy and do yourself a favor. Let it go.

39. ATTACHMENT IS THE SOURCE OF ALL SUFFERING

Life is ever-changing and impermanence is the ultimate truth.

I feel this one deep every day and although I recognize it and am aware of how this concept plays out in my life, I am nowhere near close to mastering it. To naturally be unattached to:

A person/relationship

Work

An outcome

Identity (wife, a mother, a new empty nester…)

Is… well, unnatural. And I don’t know if the human condition would even allow it. What I do know is that when we attach ourselves to something, we become vulnerable to its loss or change. We become anxious and fearful, and our sense of security is shaken. And the only way to avoid such suffering or at least to take the edge off is to practice non-attachment.

40. THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS…

To truly truly truly be happy—is to be happy with everything you have right now. A bonus would be to be happy with even less.

Life moves so fast, and when you are on autopilot, just making the necessary steps to get to the next step you forget to pause and reflect on how you may be actually living your dream and you are taking it for granted.

Remember that guy you dated, you said “Im going to marry him”

…that house you wished and prayed you’d be able to move into

…the backyard you wanted

…the child you wanted

…the job you wanted

Reflect on all those things you once wanted and now have. Look at you living your dream and shit! Be happy now.

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